For its 70th edition, the Melbourne International Film Festival has announced its most ambitious ever program. After multiple COVID-19 lockdowns, it will be the festival’s first in-cinema Melbourne schedule since 2019, and run Aug. 4-21, 2022.

The 2022 line up will showcase 257 feature films, 177 Australian premiers, 18 world premieres including opening night film “Of an Age,” from Macedonian born, Melbourne-based writer-director, Goran Stolevski (“Won’t Be Alone”), as well as a record 61 titles fresh from Cannes.

“This is our first full-scale in-cinema return,” MIFF artistic director, Al Cossar told Variety. The festival is expanding its footprint with a concurrent regional program and an online streaming platform through MIFF Play, which will digitally screen 105 shorts and features that will be available Australia wide from 11- 28 August.

“This is a wonderful way to keep outreaching and meeting audiences where they are and is an opportunity for us to expand nationally,” said Cossar.

Also new to the festival is the launch of its first in-festival competition program, MIFF Bright Horizons. With a specific focus on first- and second-time features, eleven films have been selected which will be judged by a yet to be announced international jury.

Films vying for the flagship A$140,000 ($94,000) Bright Horizons Best Film Award include: crime thriller “The Stranger,” from Australian director Thomas M. Wright, starring Joel Egerton and Sean Harris; the second feature by Australian director Alena Lodkina “Petrol,” about twenty-something life in Melbourne; “Robe of Gems” from Mexican-Bolivian film-maker Natalia Lopez Gallardo; Charlotte Wells’ debut feature, “Aftersun” with Paul Mescal (“Normal People”).

Films recently seen in Cannes include: cyber-musical “Neptune Frost” from co-directors Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman; the high octane “Rodeo,” from director Lola Quivoron; and “Domingo and the Mist,” by director Ariel Escalante Meza.

“This is our first major feature film competition and will recognize emerging and breakthrough filmmakers, and will attract a lot of international guests and global interest,” said Cossar.